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Halloween horror show for Bears
Jim Harbaugh looked like a sore loser after Sunday's seven-sack afternoon at Lambeau Field.
Bruises on his back, scratches on his legs, swelling on an ankle, Harbaugh was the poster boy for the Bears' 17-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Including Monday night's nine-sack debacle during a 19-12 loss to Minnesota, Harbaugh has kissed the ground 16 times in agony within seven days.
Reggie White became acquainted with Harbaugh on Sunday. He became the NFL's all-time leading sacker, getting two to go along with his eight tackles.
The second half of the Bears' season doesn't arrive for another two weeks, but coach Dave Wannstedt may be forced to revisit the notion of competing for an NFC Central title in 1993.
Can you spell rebuilding?
"Give Green Bay credit, but we did not get it done when we had opportunities to get it done, in all phases," said Wannstedt, whose team fell to 3-4 and hosts the sack-happy Los Angeles Raiders on Sunday. "Defensively, we didn't stop them at the end when we needed to stop them."
The Bears have lost three of their four games within the division-twice to Minnesota and now once to Green Bay.
"We've got to figure out who gives us the best chance to make the catches and make the blocks and make the tackles," Wannstedt said. "That's where we're at. You just make sure that you're lining up with people who are going to lay it on the line every play in all phases. That's one thing you can control."
The Packers (4-3) made their season, in the eyes of their diehard fans. Beating the Bears seems to take precedent over going to the Super Bowl, Packer backers would have you believe. The Bears had won three straight at Lambeau Field before Sunday's montage of missed opportunities.
The 58,945 Green Bay fans were given masks of Packers coach Mike Holmgren as they entered Lambeau Field for this Halloween mixer. Holmgren could not mask his enthusiasm after beating the obliging Bears.
"I thought it was a slugfest," Holmgren said. "I know the Bears have an outstanding defensive football team. I believe we have a good defensive football team. I kind of anticipated the type of game it was. It was kind of cold, a lot of grass and mud flying around. Good football game."
The Bears squandered an excellent early scoring opportunity when free safety Mark Carrier intercepted a Brett Favre pass and returned it to the Green Bay 16. When the drive stalled on the 9, Kevin Butler came in to attempt a 27-yard field goal. But Jay Leeuwenburg's snap was mishandled by holder Chris Gardocki, who scrambled and passed incomplete in the direction of Trace Armstrong.
"It was a good snap," Gardocki said. "I just rushed myself a little bit and tried to flip the ball over to get the laces away from Kevin and I lost control of it. It was my fault totally."
The Packers took a 3-0 lead on a 40-yard field goal by Chris Jacke with 1:35 left in the first quarter. The three-pointer came at the end of a 12-play, 46-yard drive.
A 21-yard touchdown pass from Favre to Sterling Sharpe, who had seven catches for 75 yards, put the Packers on top 10-0 early in the second quarter. The two had hooked up on a 20-yard completion earlier in the eight-play, 70-yard drive.
Trailing 10-0, the Bears tried a halfback pass with Neal Anderson lofting a throw to wide-open tight end Ryan Wetnight. The rookie from Stanford dropped the ball at about the Packers 10-yard line.
"Everyone executed the play except one guy," Wetnight said. "You have to make big plays in big games. It was a great throw by Neal. You have to catch those. I was expecting to be wide open."
The Bears finally got on the scoreboard with 45 seconds left in the half when Butler booted a 33-yard field goal at the end of a 13-play, 63-yard drive.
More frustration awaited the Bears in the fourth quarter. After driving the team to the Green Bay 12, Harbaugh fell victim to a safety blitz from LeRoy Butler, who hit him as he cocked his arm to throw. The fumble was inadvertently kicked back to the Green Bay 37, where Butler pounced on it.
"We just couldn't get over the hump and put it in when we had to," Wannstedt said. "I don't have any answers. We need to get better, and we have to work harder to get better. When we have adversity, we have to battle our way through."
The Packers iced the victory by going 91 yards in 12 plays, culminating the drive with Darrell Thompson's 17-yard TD run.
For the record, Wannstedt feels his team remains in strong contention for the division title.
"We are definitely not (going to change the approach)," Wannstedt said. "We ran well and controlled the clock in the second half. This was the first time the offense moved the football well, but penalties killed us."